When news leaked on Monday that President Trump had decided to dismantle Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — the 2012 policy that granted administrative relief to some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors — some commentators tried to find a ray of hope in the dismal forecast. Trump, they noted, would give Congress six months to save the DACA-protected “Dreamers” from deportation with a legislative fix. Never mind that House Republicans sabotaged a chance to help Dreamers in 2013, when John Boehner, the House speaker, refused to hold a vote on an immigration-reform bill that had passed in the Senate to a vote on the House floor. Now, NPR reported, Republicans might favor a bill introduced by Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship. “Overwhelmingly, Republicans tell me: ‘Yes, I could support giving these young immigrants permanent status in our country,’ ” Curbelo told “All Things Considered,” “ ‘as long as we continue moving towards better border security, the enforcement of our immigration laws.’ ” Yet among the undocumented activists whom I got to know while reporting in Arizona earlier this year, such a compromise is hardly viewed with relief. Rather it is the Catch-22 that they have been dreading ever since Trump was elected.
In emergency meetings and conference calls following Trump’s victory last November, immigrant rights activists prepared for the coming changes in federal immigration policy. Even then, they worried about what to do if Congress linked the extension of DACA’s protections with a broader enforcement crackdown. As I detailed in May, Dreamers were once viewed skeptically by other undocumented activists, who believed that campaigns designed to help Dreamers could undermine efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reforms. These rifts were largely resolved when Dreamers rallied behind efforts to help their parents after President Obama issued the executive order on DACA.
By the time Senators Bernie Sanders and Dick Durbin held a private round table with immigrant rights leaders in December 2016, the general sentiment within the movement had become: divided, we fall. Erika Andiola, the first president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, argued that Democrats should filibuster any legislation that targeted undocumented immigrants, even if it helped Dreamers. Greisa Martinez, the advocacy director for United We Dream, who also attended the meeting in Sanders’s office, told me: “It’s not a choice between do you protect the Dreamers or do you protect the broader community.” She continued: “We believe that our responsibility is to be able to do both things at once. One does not come at the cost of the other.”
That idealistic unity may have begun to fracture 11 days ago, when leaks began suggesting that Trump might terminate DACA, a scenario that provoked terror among DACA recipients. In their DACA applications, they were required to provide the federal government with detailed information about themselves and their parents — names, addresses — in order to gain work permits, driver’s licenses and other benefits of deferred action.
“Can you imagine? The government made a promise to us: come forward, come out of the shadows and we’re going to promise you that you’re not going to be in deportation proceedings,” Reyna Montoya, a Dreamer in Phoenix, told me. “But they deferred our deportation, and now we’re there in the line.” Worried that Trump might kill the program in a late-night tweet, Montoya took to setting her alarm clock for 5 a.m., so she could start each morning by checking whether her DACA protections had been destroyed.
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In many cases, the stress of such uncertainty was felt not only by Dreamers but also by their families. Their fears extended beyond the nightmarish possibility of being tracked down through the information volunteered in DACA applications. Though the general public often imagines DACA recipients as college students, many of them are in fact parents or full-time employees whose relatives depend on their legal income for survival. And many undocumented family members have placed assets like cars or homes under a DACA recipient’s name, or relied on a DACA child’s Social Security number to take out loans. Even Andiola, a well-placed DACA recipient who is now the political director of Our Revolution, could lose the ability to make mortgage payments on the house that she bought for her mother, Maria Guadalupe Arreola. Arreola told me that she knows many families in the same predicament. Regardless of whether immigration agents deport the Dreamers, with DACA gone, she said, their families “will be ruined.”
1 day ago
I don't resent the children born here. And not the children brought here before six. But the parents should be deported and never allowed to...
2 days ago
What I fear is that identifying dreamers will result in identifying and expelling their parents. That could result in the tragic break up...
2 days ago
Pretty much the way I thought this argument would go. Not only is it cruel to deport people who were brought here as children, it's also...
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Carlos Garcia, executive director of the immigrant rights group Puente Arizona, views last week’s prolonged uncertainty as a calculated move, designed to splinter the undocumented community. “I think it’s sadistic,” he said. The six-month delay in implementing an end to DACA isn’t a kindness, he argued. It would function like a “ticking clock” to pressure Dreamers to accept whatever legislation Congress cobbles together — even legislation, like “Kates’s Law,” which increases penalties for migrants who try to return after deportation, or which includes funding for a border wall, a measure that would otherwise be vigorously opposed. It could also kneecap protests by other progressive activists, who might feel that they should “sit back” for the sake of 800,000 DACA recipients, regardless of what a congressional solution might mean for the lives of millions of other undocumented immigrants. The question on some parents’ minds, according to the Puente organizer Maria Castro, may be: Am I O.K. with being persecuted in order to save our child? Castro said: “I don’t think there’s an answer to that communitywide.”
The stakes feel especially high after Trump’s recent pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County. Arpaio was voted out of office in 2016 after multiple lawsuits and a Pulitzer-winning investigation by The East Valley Tribune exposed his abuse of power, corruption and neglect of basic policing. Low points in Arpaio’s tenure include the death of Deborah Braillard, who died in a diabetic coma in a Maricopa County jail after being left to lie in her own feces and vomit for 72 hours, expansive “crime suppression” sweeps of Latino neighborhoods, stalled investigations of sex crimes and attempts to intimidate two county supervisors and a sitting federal judge. Last month Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for defying a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people based solely on suspicion of their immigration status. According to Politico, his pardon has bolstered the “constitutional sheriff” movement, whose members believe that county sheriffs do not need to submit to federal law. “We hear from the opposite side that we have to end DACA because it was an overreach of power,” Montoya said, “but yet you’re willing to pardon someone who stands for hate and for abuse of power.” Andiola cried with anger when she heard the news.
“No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our republic than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday afternoon, as he announced the administration’s decision to rescind DACA. “Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty and human suffering.” But the close timing of Arpaio’s pardon and DACA’s termination suggests that under Trump and Sessions, the rule of law will not be impartial: It will be applied more strictly to Dreamers, who were raised as Americans, and who must now scramble for a way to regain DACA’s protections without sacrificing their own parents.
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